Friday, January 28, 2005 -
Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony on Thursday returned to St. Lucia following a
three-day visit to French Guiana, promising to develop closer ties aimed at
ending the isolation of St. Lucians in the distant French territory.
Prime Minister Anthony, who was accompanied by External Affairs Minister Senator
Petrus Compton and Consul General to the French Antilles Mr Cass Elias, met with
the main leaders of the political and administrative structures in the French
Overseas Department and also held several meetings with St. Lucians in various
communities across the territory, which is located on the north-western shoulder
of South America.
Dr Anthony and his delegation held major discussions with the President of the
Regional Council Mr Antoine Karram, as well as with the President of the General
Council Mr Pierre Desert and Mayor of Cayenne Jean Claude La Fontaine, on issues
ranging from strengthening of ties with St. Lucian communities to cooperation
and exchanges in such fields as business, culture and sports.
Regional Council President Karram, whose grandmother hails from Vieux Fort,
noted that this was the fist visit to French Guiana by a St. Lucian Prime
Minister. He said his countrymen appreciated the role of St. Lucians who, “over
three generations, worked hard and sacrificed tremendously to help build the
He said “St. Lucia and French Guiana share several cultural ties that include
the Kweyol language, Carnival and Jazz Festivals, all of which opened up avenues
for closer cooperation.”
An avid footballer, President Karram also suggested sports exchanges between St.
Lucia and French Guiana, “beginning with a visit to St. Lucia by a team from
Cayenne in the not too distant future.”
In the case of General Council President Desert (whose wife is St. Lucian and
whose daughter is also married to a prominent Vieux Fort businessman) said there
was much interest among French Guianese business persons in exporting lumber and
wood-related products to St. Lucia, as well as in development of tourism and
He said many St. Lucians experienced difficulties in accessing birth
certificates and other relevant immigration documents from St. Lucia and
welcomed the appointment of the Consul General in Martinique with responsibility
for the French Antilles as a first step towards addressing those needs.
President Desert said St. Lucians were among his staff and Councillors and they
worked hard and continued to identify with their land of birth or origin of
their parents in a way that attracted the appreciation and praise of French
Guianese. Said Monsieur Desert: “I love St. Lucians; I married one and so did my
The Mayor of Cayenne (capital of French Guiana), who PM Anthony also met on the
first day of his visit, said he was “very pleased to have the honour of
welcoming a Prime Minister of an independent nation to this municipality; and
more so because it is the Prime Minister of St. Lucia.” He said it was “a great
honour” for him and his Councillors.
The Mayor said St. Lucians in respected French Guiana “carry themselves with
respect and contribute to its growth, but they also maintain a great pride in
St. Lucia, which they always consider their home.”
Mayor Lafontaine, whose office coordinates the three-year-old Cayenne Jazz
Festival and the territory’s annual Carnival (Touloulou) said he wished to
develop closer ties between his municipal body and St. Lucia’s Cultural
Development Foundation (CDF).
To this end, a representative of the CDF, Mrs Barbara DuBoulay, who was also a
member of the Prime Minister’s delegation, held meetings with the municipality’s
director of cultural affairs and other Carnival organizers, with a view to
ensuring participation by groups from Cayenne in St. Lucia’s upcoming Carnival
2005 in July.
The Mayor’s office also indicated interest in learning lessons from St. Lucia’s
experience with its annual Jazz Festival and said they would send
representatives to attend and observe the 14th St. Lucia Jazz Festival in May.
Mayor Lafontaine identified cooperation in development and promotion of Kweyol
as another area of interest for his municipality. He noted that there are five
variations of the Kweyol language spoken in French Guiana. Apart from the
indigenous Guianese Kweyol, he noted those spoken by immigrants from Haiti,
Martinique and Guadeloupe, Dominica and St. Lucia.
To this end, he said, “St. Lucia’s experience in promoting the Kweyol Language
and in organizing Jounen Kweyol activities could be very helpful to the efforts
of French Guianese to unify the languages that are being promoted separately by
groups of different national origins.”
The Prime Minister’s delegation also met with ACREDEG, an association of
representatives of commercial, industrial, agricultural, tourism, fishing,
timber, construction and gold mining interests, who expressed interest in
exploring avenues for the development of commercial ties and investment
possibilities in St. Lucia.
The Guianese commercial and private sector representatives noted that direct
trade opportunities with St. Lucia were hampered by the cost and transit
problems associated with transportation, but also expressed an interest in
exploring how commercial ties could be could be developed.
To this end, the ACREDEG indicated that a delegation representing the Guianese
timber industry will be visiting St. Lucia in March to explore avenues for
business. They also indicated they will send a separate and larger delegation to
Castries later to explore wider opportunities for joint investment.
There was some pessimism and scepticism expressed on the part of the Guianese
business leaders about the likelihood of and possibilities of developing direct
commercial and business ties between French Guiana and St. Lucia, citing
distance, competition from neighbouring Brazil and other factors.
However, the Prime Minister indicated that the French Government had opened the
way for closer contact by generously relaxing the requirements for visas for
travel by St. Lucians to the French Antilles.
He said since then, direct contact between Martinique and St. Lucia has
multiplied and resulted in thriving cross-channel business for commercial
interests in both islands, as well as increased tourism flows both ways.
St. Lucia’s experience with Martinique, the PM said, indicated that “where
there’s a will to do business, once pursued in the right way and with the right
spirit, it can happen.”
Prime Minister Anthony held two very lively and well attended meetings with
large groupings of St. Lucians in Cayenne, during which they welcomed him and
his delegation with cultural performances.
The St. Lucians explained what some of their problems were. Among those
identified were Customs and Immigration regulations and lengthy in-transit stays
in Martinique whenever they visited St. Lucia. Others identified property
inheritance in the absence of the relevant documentation, while some recommended
a series of student exchanges to help better inform the younger generation of
the historic ties between the two countries.
There was also a proposal for the establishment of a Maison de Ste Lucie (St.
Lucia House) in Cayenne, to better inform St. Lucian descendants about the
history and culture of their land of origin.
The Prime Minister, who updated the St. Lucians in Cayenne on developments back
home, assured them that after his visit, they “will no longer feel neglected” as
the Government of St. Lucia would ensure they were served by the Consulate
General in Martinique. He also steps would continue towards appointment of a
complementary resident Honorary Consul in Cayenne to attend to their immediate
The Prime Minister said he appreciated “how St. Lucians live with honour, pride
and dignity in a land that is not their own” and he was also “encouraged by the
level of appreciation for their contribution to Cayenne’s development as
expressed generally by the people of French Guiana.”
After being treated to special cultural performances that featured musicians of
St. Lucian origin playing songs of La Rose and La Marguerite, the Prime Minister
said he was “quite pleased that they also celebrate Independence and other
national holidays, play cricket and in several other ways maintain contact with
their St. Lucian roots.”
During a visit to the Central Market in Cayenne, accompanied by the President of
the Regional Council and the Mayor of Cayenne, Prime Minister Anthony met
several St. Lucians who were engaged in agricultural and livestock industries
and who provided services of various types on Market Day.
A highlight of the Prime Minister’s visit to French Guiana was a specially
guided tour of the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, from where European satellites
are launched into space and where St. Lucians are also employed.
The PM and his delegation were allowed privileged access to the launch pad, the
control centre and the location where the Arianne 5 rocket is being constructed
in staged and prepared for launching next month.
Dr Anthony was taken from Kourou on a visit to the tiny land-locked village of
Saul, which is based in the centre of French Guiana, and which, along with
neighbouring Saint Elie, are mining communities originally founded by St. Lucian
miners in the last century.
On his return home, Prime Minister Anthony said he saw the visit as “the
beginning of the end of the isolation of the St. Lucian community in French
Guiana.” He said the St. Lucia Government was also “ready and willing to work
with the French Government and the local administrative authorities to examine
areas in which mutually beneficial commercial, cultural and sporting links could
be developed for further friendship and cooperation, in the interest of all.”
He said he felt comfortable his visit had “opened the way for closer cooperation
and negating the neglect of the past.”